Pulao is a word from northern India referring to basmati rice cooked with spices and vegetables. Pulao is different from biryani, which is usually layered and cooked on dum (check my Hyderabadi Veg Biryani recipe) while pulao is usually all mixed together and cooked. There are many kinds of pulao. This recipe for pulao is very basic and simple, but delicious. It is also vegetarian! Try it out if you like to eat Indian food.
If you are new to Indian food, you will need to get some ingredients. Find an Indian or Middle Eastern grocery store near you because they cost much less than the same ingredients in an American supermarket. I wrote a post about these ingredients later (check out Indian Cooking Basics Series), but here I will briefly describe them.
Basmati rice- a very long grain fragrant rice used in Indian and Middle Eastern cooking
Ghee- clarified butter used in Indian and Middle Eastern cooking
Ginger-garlic paste or fresh ginger and garlic
Spices- whole cumin seeds, turmeric powder, garam masala, coriander powder, cayenne pepper powder + paprika (optional) or Indian red chili powder
1 1/2 cups basmati rice (2 rice cooker cups)
water for washing and soaking rice
2 1/4 cups water for cooking rice
2 tbsp ghee
1 tsp whole cumin seeds*
1 small onion, diced
2-3 green Thai chilies, minced (optional)
1 tbsp ginger-garlic paste or 1 tbsp minced garlic + 1 tbsp minced ginger
1 tsp turmeric powder*
1 tsp garam masala*
1 tsp coriander powder*
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper, or to taste, plus equal amount paprika, OR 1/4 tsp Indian red chili powder, or to taste (1/4 tsp makes it have a very small hint of spiciness, if you skip the green chilies) OR 1/2 tsp Kashmiri red chili powder*
1/2 tsp salt, or to taste
1 medium-sized tomato, diced
1 medium-sized potato, diced
1/2 cup fresh or frozen green peas
1 small handful cilantro, finely chopped (~1/4 cup)
more ghee for serving (optional)
*slightly heap all of the measuring spoons for spices
1. Put rice in a mixing bowl. Add water to rinse. Rub with your hand until water is opaque (cannot see through). Pour out the water but be careful to not do too quickly so rice does not go away. Repeat a few times.
2. Cover rice with water. Let soak while you cut all the ingredients.
3. Heat a nonstick pot over medium-high heat. Add ghee.
4. Add cumin seeds. They should pop. Wait 5 seconds and let them pop.
5. Add onion, green chilies (if using), ginger, and garlic. Saute for 5 minutes.
6. Add all the spices and salt. Stir for 5 seconds.
7. Add tomato. Saute for a couple minutes as the tomato softens.
8. Add potato, saute for one minute.
9. Drain rice into a mesh sieve. Put the rice into the pot. It is ok if a little rice is still in the mixing bowl.
10. Saute the rice in the pot for 1-2 minutes.
11. Add the 2 1/4 cup water to the pot. Add some of it to the mixing bowl to get all the rice out.
12. Bring to a boil, stir.
13. Cover. Cook over low heat for 20 minutes.
14. Uncover. Stir with a rice paddle or fork.
15. Cover and leave for two to five minutes.
16. Serve! Garnish with cilantro. Add more ghee if you want (they often do that in India).